Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise

Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.

I should not get as giddy as I do when a new Mercy Watson book appears, but goodness they are fun!  Frankly, if Kate DiCamillo had only done Mercy Watson books, I would adore her just as much.  The fact that she also wrote such incredible books for older readers as Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux is amazing!  Alright enough gushing!

In this fourth Mercy Watson book, the Watsons decide that Mercy should celebrate Halloween.  They mention treats to Mercy and Mercy immediately agrees to join in the fun, picturing stacks of buttery toast as her treats.  Mrs. Watson creates a very pink, very flouncy princess dress for Mercy while Mr. Watson finds her a tiara.  Mercy has no interest in the costume itself, but the temptation of treats convince her to step into the dress.  But when Mercy finds that there is no toast involved in trick-or-treating she is quite disappointed, until she discovers a buttery candy and then there is no stopping the cavorting and rampaging that starts.  As always the book ends with a stack of buttery toast, but not until after quite a bit of wild romping.

If you haven’t enjoyed any of the other Mercy Watson books, run right out and get the first three.  Van Dusen’s art starts at the very cover and carries through with lush colors, a fifties feel, and great design down to the page numbers.  Take a few moments to admire the Halloween decor at the Watson’s house.  The detail is flawlessly funny.  DiCamillo has managed to create a series that can be read aloud to the picture book crowd but is also welcoming for young readers to tackle.

Highly recommended to read aloud to ages 3-6 and as a solo read for slightly older children or precocious readers.  The content is very child-friendly and appropriate for all ages.

The Aurora County All-Stars

The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles

House is a twelve-year-old boy who adores baseball, especially pitching.  But last summer he missed the only real game of baseball that their small town actually gets to participate in because someone broke his elbow.   While he was healing, he was asked to be a companion to a dying neighbor who was known throughout town as a baby eater.  The book opens with the death of that man whom House has become close to over their months together.  But none of his friends know what he has been doing with his spare time.   House’s summer is also complicated by the return of the girl who broke his elbow the previous year.  She is back to run a pageant for the town which just happens to conflict in timing with the only real baseball game of the summer!

Golly, I loved this book.  The characters in it were astonishingly well-drawn in such a short book, but that is because Wiles has used each phrase and sentence to clarify and reveal the characters and the town.  It is a joy to read. 

The timelessness of the book was also appealing.  These children, parents and the entire town could have been any time in the last 50 years. 

Highly recommended as a classroom read for 3rd through 5th grades, this book should be put in the hands of any child who enjoyed The Penderwicks.  They offer similar styles and that wonderful timeless feeling where children can sink into the story and feel safe.  Rather like bottled childhood in the form of a book.